PtG Article 16.08.2014

Athens 2004 revisited

With the ten-year anniversary for the Athens Summer Olympics coming up, media fills with stories about the questionable legacy of these games featuring photos of abandoned Olympic facilities left to fade away while Greece is struggling to balance what is left of a broken economy.

The Greek government’s latest official estimate of the cost for hosting the Olympics in 2004 lies at around 8,5 billion euros, which is twice the initial budgets.

“It was a waste of money and all for show,” says professor of economics at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Dimitris Mardas to Reuters and adds that the inflexible venues chosen for the event “only served the interests of contractors”.

According to critics, a main reason for the negative Olympic legacy that Greece is left with is the few opportunities seized. Greece could have benefitted much more from hosting the Olympics had they made better use of the momentum.

“We didn’t take advantage of this dynamic that we got in 2004. We simply made the biggest mistake in our history: We switched off, locked up the stadiums, let them fall to pieces, and everything finished there,” says Pyrros Dimas, former Olympic weightlifter and Socialist member of the Greek parliament to AP.

Head of the Hellenic Olympic Committee Spyros Capralos agrees that the plans for the afteruse of the facilities were insufficient:

"Nobody was thinking what would happen the next day," he said according to AP. "Many of the sports facilities were constructed just to be constructed ... and nobody thought that they required a lot of money for maintenance after the Olympic Games."

While the infrastructural improvements made in relation to the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, such as road improvement, renovated airport and a new subway system have most likely improved the lives of the 4 million inhabitants in the Greek capital, only very few of the sports facilities constructed in relation to the Games are in use today. On the contrary; they stand as ‘white elephants’ and as a symbol of what Greece had hoped could be the turnaround in a halting economy. But according to Capralos there is still hope:

"Simply, someone must do whatever is needed for the venues to be taken over by the private sector - because I don't think the state can be a very good entrepreneur or venue manager."

An independent survey outlining the overall effects of hosting the Olympics has now been commissioned. “It will aim to weigh Olympic overspend and waste against a possible boost to the crucial tourism industry - arrivals have almost doubled since 2004, from 11.7 to 20.1 million - foreign investment and employment,” writes AP.